It’s been a few years since I reviewed the first Nekopara title. For those reading this immediately after the ones for the previous three games in the series (counting Vol. 0) then I feel I should note for disclosure’s sake that some of my perspectives have changed in the last few years. Namely I am referring to my newly found feminist beliefs. While I am still FAR from sex negative, I tend to be far more critical with erotica than I used to be.
Namely the issue I have is that I enjoy hentai, but I enjoy it for different reasons than most. Eroge tends to have FAR more emotion and genuine artistic expression involved then 99% of western pornography and thus I am able to become more engaged with it. Unfortunately I have very different sexual standards than most do when it comes to porn, and by that I mean I have standards. I expect erotic elements in games to feel genuine and real as opposed to being forced and trashy. I don’t even mean this in the sense of having nothing extreme or kinky but rather to have sex for MORE than just the sake of having sex.
Of the eroge I have covered thus far, only Negligee and the first two Nekopara titles have succeeded at having strong stories with sex scenes that are properly implemented rather than being poorly shoehorned in. I was hoping that Nekopara Vol. 3 would continue with this trend but unfortunately that was not the case.
The sex scenes in Nekopara Vol. 3 have a serious quantity over quality vibe to them going on. Vol. 1 and 2’s sex scenes I was able to enjoy precisely because they felt like genuine moments of closeness and intimacy. Both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 had three sex scenes, all of which were good, yet Nekopara Vol. 3 has five with none of them being good. All five of these scenes hold no plot relevance and each has a very forced reason for occurring. The first two scenes are pretty much just “two of the catgirls the previous games were happened to stay over and want Kashou to fuck them.”
I remember the first scene being watchable but not impressive. The art direction and the character designs still look amazing on their own but this only seems to apply to the dialogue portraits. The character animation during dialogue sequences were so fluidly animated that it often felt like I was watching an anime. While this is a definite positive, it makes me wonder why the hell this same level on detail was not used in the sex scenes that instead look like puppets that are entirely still except for a few specific limbs.
Okay yes I should count my blessings since most eroge don’t have any animation at all, but why would you put so much into the main game yet cheap out on a major selling point? Unless of course the sex scenes were simply an afterthought that were included for marketing purposes and Neko Works cared more about the actual story, but that would not explain why there are now five whole scenes instead of three.
The animation is far from the only issue with these scenes. Writing wise these scenes seem to serve the same problem as several other eroge I have come across in that they think writing out sound effects is sexy and not painfully obnoxious filler. I am just going to quote my Euphoria review and be done with this complaint because I have already gone over this.
Of course, there is no way to know for sure whether or not this was the case, but there is a problem with an overabundance of onomatopoeia is that it is entirely redundant in a SOUND based medium. The original term for visual novels was “sound novel” but apparently the term got copyrighted or something. It definitely makes more sense than visual novel since most images are still and there is little animation. Unless the sex scenes are fully animated, there is no good reason to skimp out on the “novel” part, especially when it does nothing but repeat the sound effects that are clearly audible to any listener. Yes, onomatopoeia can be appropriate when used to compliment actual description, but never to substitute it.
This next complaint may just be me, but I have also grown to detest the overuse of saliva or drool in these scenes. Granted it this is also an autism thing given that we have been known to be horribly grossed out by drool, but it’s so overused that I could not tell whether certain parts of the body were covered in spit or sweat. The latter I am much more okay with, hell I actually have a bit of a thing for sweat, but the way these scenes are drawn just make me wish eroge will add an option to filter out saliva along with other bodily fluids.
The major problem with these scenes though is how forced they feel. None of these scenes ever felt like they had any purpose to exist other than to have hentai scenes present. These scenes also border on just plain dull to one that felt like a borderline rape scene (which just felt all the more awkward with “Aibyou” playing over it. And to think I felt it was misused in Vol. 0). To go into more detail, there is a scene entirely between Cinnamon and Maple (no Kashou). It was a lesbian scene but somehow was the worst in the game.
CW: Rape, incest.
Apparently Neko Works decided to take a page out of the Citrus playbook and decide that rape is okay if it’s two girls, even if they are sisters. Okay TECHNICALLY Maple went along with it in this scene but Cinnamon was being very coercive and manipulative throughout. There was also implied attraction between the two but it was still clear that Maple was very uncomfortable during and after they did it. The scene afterwards even had Cinnamon completely oblivious to what she just did to Maple and has her acting like your average fraternity bro fuckboy.
This scene was easily the low point of the game and was very uncomfortable, but the runner up had to be having a scene where Kashou walks in on Maple peeing. Not only is it this same overused cringeworthy gag that was never funny to begin with, but it even includes a sound effect of her peeing because anime characters never know to close the door during these scenes and instead just linger around like blithering morons. The first game mocked the tsundere archetype and now it has sunk to this level.
I know that a portion of the hentai audience will not care about something like that, but the thing is that Nekopara, up to this point, have used sex as an artistic tool for expressing love and intimacy; IE it felt real. When you get to the point that something is borderline rape scene material, it’s usually safe to say that this series has jumped the shark. I hope that isn’t the case and that future games aren’t this trashy in regards to sexual content, but it is definitely concerning.
That being said, Nekopara Vol. 3 is very definitely worth playing… the all ages version at least. The sex scenes are ass (and not the good kind either) but the main storyline is easily the best in the series. While my feminist beliefs make the bed hentai scenes all the worse for me, they also make me appreciate the story So much more. When I played the first game as just your average otaku, I thought to myself that it was kinda cute but that it wouldn’t appeal to most people due to the lack of action.
After becoming a feminist, I have become more critical in regards to pornography in general. Nekopara is a series that sounds highly problematic in concept in feminist terms given that it is based around not only equating women to pets but also the fact that every female character is childlike and happens to be vying for the affection of a man. It is very easy to see how this concept could just come across as appealing to the “male fantasy” so to speak.
This is why it’s bad to brush off fanservicey titles based solely on the existence of sexual content. It is easy to brush off something like Nekopara based on its premise while assuming that it is in the same vein as Sakura Spirit in that it is all tits no substance, but I’ll leave that shit to Polygon. Nekopara has always had an emphasis on strong and likeable characters, which is contrary to the very notion of “objectification” in and of itself.
I’ve always held a belief that just because something CAN be construed as some variation of “problematic” does not mean that it should be. Yes one can take the concept of catgirls being sweet and subservient tradwives who all want to please a down to earth male protagonist as a promotion of traditional conservative values, but the sheer fact that each of the catgirls still feel like human beings despite their goofy and cat like nature goes in direct contradiction to the idea of them being fetish objects.
It is also important to remember that it is NOT less valid for women to be affectionate and submissive to a male partner. The only reason the idea of women being affectionate or submissive is considered offensive to anyone is because it’s often been presented as the ONLY way women were allowed to be portrayed as. Nekopara not only has an excuse in that they are made from the DNA of literal cats, but this is even used as a plot point throughout Nekopara Vol. 3. One of the major themes of the game was that Maple wants to become a singer but is discouraged because a video of her performing only gets comments pertaining to how she’s a catgirl.
The story of Nekopara Vol. 3 is based around Maple and Cinnamon, the two who have yet to have their own plot after Vol. 2. Maple and Cinnamon have both been best friends since growing up and have always been close. The story chronicles Maple’s realization that she wanted to be a musician since she was a child but got discouraged from it until years later when Kashou encouraged her to do so. The driving conflict comes from Maple’s concerns of being taken less seriously due to being a catgirl in addition to the fact that Cinnamon feels she needs to spend less time with her to let her pursue her dream.
Despite the fact that Cinnamon is my least favorite of the catgirls and that Maple is my third to least favorite, the story in this game was easily the strongest in the series thus far and it really highlighted both character’s greatest qualities… outside of the sex scenes that is. I did find Cinnamon’s perverted quips to get kinda repetitive after a while and Maple, while an enjoyable and compelling character, was not entirely unique; but their own struggles and conflicts have formed the most emotionally compelling story in the series AND culminated in a climax that served as the first time this series has made me cry.
I would also like to add that I’ve come to appreciate just how much better of a protagonist Kashou is than most harem dipshits. He’s not particularly an original or even compelling character, but certain lines do make it clear that he’s actually remotely competent and caring man who looks after those important to him and that he’s not just some fuckboy. It’s far easier to immerse yourself in a character driven story when it at least gets that part right.
All in all, Nekopara Vol. 3 receives my recommendation… as long as its the all ages version. I say this not just because the sex scenes were unsexy but also because they dilute the taste of the full storyline. After seeing that unbearably creepy scene with Cinnamon and Maple AND with Kashou walking in on Maple peeing, I was planning on giving this game a negative review (something I’m really glad I didn’t have to do since this is the first review code I’ve received from Sekai Project/Denpasoft and I’d feel like a dick for panning their game after taking so long to get to another one of their games) but seeing that beautiful climax with Maple singing “Grandfather’s Clock“ let me know that this series still has quite a bit left in it.
I am hopeful that Vol. 4 knows how to better implement sex scenes into the game or just forgoes them entirely if Neko Works is only including them to fill out some sort of quota (that’s not gonna happen though). I am unsure whether or not I would say this game is my least favorite in the trilogy thus far simply because I I recall being very depressed when I reviewed Vol. 2 and am unsure if if I was too harsh on it or not, but nonetheless it just means less money to spend on the 18+ patch with Vol. 3. Besides, one should not need the promise of sex to appreciate the majesty and grace of the La Solei catgirls. Even Shigure agrees with me on this one.
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